Gulab Bhavnani, Program Director, and Robert Nathan, the Lifestyles Leader for WHEELS, inked the signatures on behalf of WHEELS Global Foundation while Kymberly Wolf, Senior Vice President for Resource Development, signed on behalf of Habitat for Humanity International

New York – Finalizing a working partnership, Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) and WHEELS (Water, Health, Energy, Education, Lifestyles, and Security) Global Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Thursday June 6, 2013 in New York City, to work together on the IndiaBUILDS campaign to provide shelter for the underprivileged on a large scale. Stressing the desperate global need for low cost homes, the two signatories agreed to combine the strengths of each organization in raising funds to assist each other in this world-wide effort.

Gulab Bhavnani, Program Director, and Robert Nathan, the Lifestyles Leader for WHEELS, inked the signatures on behalf of WHEELS Global Foundation while Kymberly Wolf, Senior Vice President for Resource Development, signed on behalf of Habitat for Humanity International.

Witnessing the event were several HFHI officials, including CEO Eric Christopher; Asia-Pacific Leadership Development Officer Sanjay Daswani; Asia-Pacific Resource Development Director Joseph Scaria; Executive Vice President, International Division, Michael Carscaddon; and Major Gifts Officer, IndiaBUILDS North America, Shuchi Vyas. A.K. Agarwal, Chairman of the Business Review Council for the Aditya Birla Group, who led the Birla delegation.

Bhavnani explained that WHEELS came about when Capital IIT “focused on a mission to impact society and provide solutions to solve the world’s social problems in the key WHEELS areas.” Bhavnani further said that, “Affordable housing for the needy is a key Lifestyles track project. When combined with clean water, healthy environment, education, energy, and security for women and children, it provides a complete WHEELS packaged home for families in underserved communities around the world. Thus, the collaboration with Habitat for Humanity provides a great opportunity for us to provide innovative solutions to common problems.”

Bhavnani noted that, “WHEELS came about when IITians needed a message to propagate the global reach of talented alumni. And that message was going to be an organization, and a program, called WHEELS.”

Piyush Mody, an entrepreneur and Habitat for Humanity- INDIABuilds partner from the Dallas Texas area, who will be working on the project and contributing land in India for Habitat for Humanity to build houses, said, “In a country like India, it costs about $4,000 to build a small house. Then you settle one family in it. Once you settle it, they get a lifetime of blessings, because their family and their children can live there forever.”

WHEELS, which stands for Water, Health, Energy, Education, Lifestyles, and Security, started out as a Social Entrepreneurship initiative by the Washington DC-based alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology – the Capital IIT Group. The group wanted to promote innovative solutions to common problems in the WHEELS areas worldwide.

WHEELS Global Foundation is a non-profit organization spawned by the alumni of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Alumni of the IITs who have chosen to adopt North America as their domicile have an estimated 50,000 members settled in cities, primarily in the US and Canada. These alums have a vast pool of knowledge, experience and business success, allowing them to assist HFH in its mission to provide shelter for the needy in North America.

Habitat for Humanity is a global organization, with over 1,500 chapters in North America, and a mission to provide affordable shelter for citizens in need. Habitat also has more than 80 international organizations with a mission to provide shelter and sanitary living to the underprivileged.

Habitat has built shelter for thousands of homes in India, and as a result, has developed unique experience utilizing locally available building materials and local labor. This experience can now be transported to providing shelter in needy communities in North America. IIT alumni are adept at applying technology to practical uses and through the WHEELS Global Foundation, have agreed to provide technical assistance to build affordable homes in North America.

Bob Nathan, WHEELS Lifestyles leader for the IndiaBUILDS project added, “This isn’t just for IIT alumni. Anyone with the capability, skills and willingness to volunteer are welcome to contribute.”

After the signing of the MoU, nearly 300 attendees gathered in the ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in NYC for a reception dedicated to the launch of Habitat for Humanity International’s IndiaBUILDS campaign. Rajashree Birla, wife of the late G. D. Birla, and chairperson of the IndiaBUILDS project, addressed the gathering via a videotaped speech from India. The event celebrated the progress made by IndiaBUILDS projects and partners to date through a short video presentation, and speakers spoke of project mission and fundraising plans to achieve these project goals.

The keynote speech was provided by renowned home building magnate and philanthropist J. Ronald (Ron) Terwilliger. Terwilliger, a mega donor to Habitat for Humanity, is passionate about Habitat for Humanity’s IndiaBUILDS projects. He spoke of his friendship with the Birla Group and his admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, which drives his passion. A performance on the Santoor, a classical Indian instrument, highlighted the evening’s entertainment. 


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